If you are home schooling or unschooling your kids, you owe it to your children to know this.
This report, although a decade old, is a source of good educational practices that helped me make many informed decisions regarding my own courses. It was prepared for the Institute of Education Sciences in the US and draws its conclusion based on a large number of studies in the fields of cognitive science, experimental psychology, education, and educational technology. All of these were supported to a different but sufficient (according to the standards of the Institute of Education Sciences) degree by research. Most of the recommendations are focused on improving retention – that is, how long and well students can remember facts. Some of the recommendations are likely to affect the depth of understanding.
While some of these may sound obvious, the beauty of this report is that it is data-driven, so feel free to rub it into your children’s teacher’s nose if you are not happy with them)
The report in particular recommends that:
Teachers present visual materials such as graphics and pictures with written text and vice versa. This helps both retention and understanding of difficult concepts.
Teacher present abstract concepts with concrete examples. This would be something like a physics teacher conducting experiments in class to demonstrate something in action. Helps understanding.
Teachers should pose challenging questions before, during and after learning the target material. It helps both retention and understanding.
Teachers present solved and unsolved problems and keep cycling through them. The idea is that demonstrating solutions helps students produce similar solutions later. Each cycle reinforces students’ ability to solve given problems on their own.
Teachers should ask difficult questions such as “What would happen to Y if something happened to X?” instead of simple definitions of X and Y. This helps students understand concepts more deeply and provides teachers with better insights into the current level of understanding of their students.
Teachers should provide regular opportunities to review the learned material. Interestingly, this is most effective when the break between review cycles is longer than one would normally assume – it should be as long as weeks to months long.
Teachers should help students’ monitor and be critical of their own learning progress. This means teaching your students how to be sure they have learned something properly or need more study time.
And that’s it. Very simple recommendations that, in my experience, are rarely done properly. I, myself, am a teacher always struggling against bureaucracy affecting my class and curriculum. Funnily enough, the more science and proof it works you rub into people’s faces in big organizations, the less willing they are to implement it. I guess it is too much of a responsibility. It is always easier to keep things amorphous and vague. But I digress with my rambling.
If you reached this point, thank you for reading! This world as a sum of its people has just become a tiny bit more intelligent and better for it)
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